China is famous for exporting its mass-produced goods around the world for global consumption. Less well-known are its attempts to export its urban ideology. Across the country’s southern border with Laos and Myanmar lie six settlements built by Chinese developers, which operate businesses owned and run by the Chinese. Boten, a town located in northern Laos, is one of them.
Under the special economic zone plan, in 2003 Laos signed a 30-year lease on 4,000 acres of forest to a Chinese development company. Investors started building a “Golden City” centered around a casino-hotel. Touted as a futuristic hub for trade and tourism, the Golden City ran on Beijing time and made transactions in Chinese yuan.
Yet less than three years after it opened, the casino was forced to close due to speculation over criminal activity. Without gambling tourism, other businesses could not survive. The Golden City, deserted as it is today, remains a monument to the Chinese version of urban modernity.
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